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The Psychology of Done – or – How to Not do Things

I work on a lot of projects – as do many creatives. I have the day job at Miniclip – and then in my spare time I am renovating my house, and making WordPress themes, playing video games, and even making video games.

About 6 months ago I announced Brush Ninja – and then I stopped working on it. I could argue all sorts of reasons about why. For instance I have been working on Isca (a new theme for, and I have been decorating my living room, and I have been playing this really cool video game (it’s a smartphone one that’s in development at Miniclip so I can’t say any more). But actually – my motivation has vanished.

I’m not sure why but I’ve noticed this pattern before in the projects I work on. I do loads of work behind the scenes and don’t tell anyone anything. As soon as I mention it on my blog, or even just tell a friend – I start work on the next thing. It’s like talking about the project publicly is a statement that I’m done.

Clearly the website isn’t done. In fact it only has a small handful of users. So I need to finish things off and make it fully public.

Shared Responsibility

I remember reading something about how when you share ideas you share the responsibility of the idea, and so any incentive to complete the idea dissipates. This doesn’t mean I won’t do these things eventually. However it does lessen the urgency, and so progress slows right down.

Positive Affirmation

This is particularly applicable when there’s little/ no feedback. If I don’t have people confirming that what I am doing is good or worthwhile, then I am even less likely to follow through.

Lack of Focus

The creatives curse. I have so many things I want to do that I have to focus on a few or I’ll never finish anything. As I said above – I like to make video games, and I have 2 of those that are mid development as well, and they’re likely to stay there for a while.

Brush Ninja

Brush Ninja is a perfect example of this. I started it last year, really excited to be trying something new. I created an animation editor and built a community website. I made a teaser video – and I did a tiny amount of publicity. Then I blogged about it – and started making WordPress themes instead.

Why did I stop?

I don’t know exactly!

Getting Started Again

I still think Brush Ninja has a lot of potential and I really want to finish it off. What I need to do is cut out the incomplete features (maybe adding a message saying they are planned instead) and get it into peoples hands. There’s nothing better than real feedback from real users to get motivated.

Of course there’s always a chance people won’t be interested and then I’ll have no positive affirmation and stop again – but at least I’ll have finished it.



Ben View All

Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.

4 thoughts on “The Psychology of Done – or – How to Not do Things Leave a comment

  1. I suffer from exactly the same problem; I vented similar frustration on my blog a couple of weeks ago and despite that I’ve not made any progress. It seems to be some magical allergy to committing lots of progress/continually being “done” is the problem. If there was some magical fix, that’d be great too.

    (really like the design you’re rocking, btw – any plans to release it?)

    • Hey Alex – hadn’t seen your article. Great minds eh (or procrastinating minds?)

      The perfection thing is a big challenge for sure. It’s really hard to just call it done and release.

      Talking of which – that’s what I did with this theme ๐Ÿ™‚ I have a big list of bugs and features to add before I declare it ready. I can’t release as is cos it’s some things hard coded that are specific to me – but I am considering making a public version once it’s all final. I’d be happy to send you the theme as is if you want to noodle around though.

  2. The one thing that irritates all of my friends or my colleagues is my lack of focus as I loose it quite easily and that’s make me a person to be disliked by all ๐Ÿ™

  3. Most of us are having same problem that is lack of focus. Constant focus on you aim always gives the best results.
    Eagerly waiting for brush ninja..:)

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